Skip to main content

Girls Build! is a unique experiential program designed to engage girls ages 11-14. Participants will receive hands-on learning and skill-based practice with architecture, as well as learning from women who are leading the way in STEAM Fields.

About Girls Build!

Our History

Girls Build! began January 2016. The program was conceived to provide girls who are interested in architecture with a platform to both explore concepts and practice hard skills related to STEAM, ACE and other similar fields. Over the past five years, the program has grown into a robust, inclusive experience that encourages girls to embrace being leaders and critical thinkers.

Why Girls?

Research suggests humans begin to form our identity and identify gendered abilities as early as 2 years of age, but the career pathway options begin to crystallize around 10 years of age. Girls are often directed towards differing expectations even earlier, particularly regarding school achievements and career pathways, on a binary standard.

The nonprofit organization The Circle states: "Investing in the education of girls brings high returns in terms of breaking cycles of poverty and aiding economic growth—but it also improves children’s and women’s survival rates and health, delays child marriage and early pregnancies, empowers women both in the home and the workplace, and helps tackle climate change." This insight, combined with our goal of empowering young people to achieve their potential through the discovery of design, is why we created Girls Build!

Why Design Matters

The core of all education programs at the Chicago Architecture Center is a reflection of our mission statement: To Help People Discover Why Design Matters. Whether we realize it or not, we interact with design every single day.

Good design is invisible, but poor design is easily recognizable. It is important for girls to not only understand that they are working with or against design every day, but also that there is a design process to be followed.

Girls Build! not only teaches participants that decisions are not made by accident, it teaches them to become the decision makers themselves.

Getting Started

The Application Process

Due to the large demand for spots in the Girls Build! program, the Chicago Architecture Center has enlisted the use of an application and requires a 30-minute information session for participants.

Thanks to the generous support of funders, underserved students can attend the program on a partial or full scholarship. All participants must complete the application to be considered for the information session and program.

What to Expect

Girls Build! is a recurring program with varying offerings. Spring and Fall sessions require a 6-week time commitment with classes meeting on Sundays.



As Girls Build! aims to grow students into leaders, Girls Build! programs will take place in Chicago neighborhoods specifically chosen to reflect each session's theme. More information will be included in the class description.

GIRLS BUILD! Fall Session

Dates: Sundays: September 25th - November 6

Time: 1pm-5pm

Location: University of Illinois at Chicago campus, 940 W Harrison St, Chicago, IL 60607

Description: Chicago was once considered a manufacturing metropolis with its production of iron and steel, garments, meat production and more. Working-class women in these industries helped shaped the built environment through their unique approach to labor organizing. The fall program for Girls Build! will allow participants to visit the local site of the Haymarket strike and visit the home of Chicago Women in the Trades organization. The program will close with a showcase of work.

Note: Registration is now closed for the Girls Build! Fall 2022 session. Please check back later for information about future programming.

Partner Organizations

  • 3form
  • AIA Chicago
  • Bailey Edward
  • Chicago Mobile Makers
  • Chicago Public Library
  • Chicago Women in Architecture
  • Columbia College Chicago
  • Gensler
  • Girls Garage
  • Girls Inc of Chicago
  • IIDA Illinois Chapter
  • IIT
  • Jane Addams Hull House
  • JGMA
  • MillerKnoll
  • Open Architecture Chicago
  • PORT Chicago
  • Project Exploration
  • Rebuilding Exchange
  • RossBarney Architects
  • Skidmore, Owings + Merrill
  • Stantec
  • Step-Up


    • "Thank you so much for allowing my girls to participate in this fantastic class, what an experience it was for them but also for me. You see, both my girls are diverse learners and I often struggle to find classes that will take them for that reason, plus where they feel like they are successful." – M. Gurrerro, parent
    • "Gaby is always sharing about Girls Build! at school. In fact, they are doing a group project where they redesign a local park ‘to scale.’ She busted out her Girls Build! skills and went around the class helping each student. If you couldn’t tell we love, love, LOVE Girls Build!. It’s one of the best things the girls have done since moving from California and THANK YOU so much for giving Gaby this opportunity." – Simon, parent
    • "Originally, I wanted to be a veterinarian, but after participating in Girls Build and meeting a female architect from Mexico, I think I want to be an architect instead!" – Citiali, age 14
    • "I have always wanted to be a model, and I STILL want to do that, but after Girls Build! I think I want to own my own agency, so I have control over where my image is used and what products I endorse." – Anayah, age 12

Additional Resources

This program is sponsored by MillerKnoll and Denise Littlefield Sobel

Miller Knoll

Denise Littlefield Sobel